DeJong confident Oakland campus can handle Guarded status, when it happens


In his now-monthly appearance before Staff Council, Human Resources head Dave DeJong told the group’s Sept. 16 meeting that he has “a lot of hope” for staff, students and faculty to handle “Guarded” status on the Pittsburgh campus, based on their current behavior — should the state ever declare such eased restrictions in Allegheny County.


Staff Council is hosting a discussion on “Staying Motivated During Challenging Times,” with Laura Ainsley, learning and development specialist with Office of Human Resources. The talk will be from noon to 1 p.m. Oct. 6.  This workshop is designed to help participants recognize and reclaim what is within their realm of control and discover opportunities within the challenges that will help them find new motivation and focus. Contact with questions. Register here.

DeJong reported that HR has had no complaints about staff or faculty noncompliance with on-campus safety measures, such as masking and social distancing.

“Activity on the Pittsburgh campus remains quite low, in terms of in-person classes,” he added; he estimates they represent 10 percent of total courses.

Visits to all the regional campuses over the past two weeks, he said, showed their in-person class rates to be significantly higher. The regionals were all at the Guarded status as of Aug. 24.

“The traffic in and out of buildings is rather low” on the Pittsburgh campus, he added, with the new safety concierge program at building entrances seeing few people without Pitt IDs attempting to enter — just “a little bit of that going on around the Cathedral” of Learning, DeJong reported.

“If we do move to Guarded,” he said, “I think we will be able to manage it very well (on the Pittsburgh campus). It’s going very well in the regionals.”

Asked whether supervisors were justified in asking staff to work in their offices simply to be on hand in case students wished to ask questions in person, he said this was an acceptable request, “in some cases … but for folks who can do their jobs remotely, we still want that to happen.” HR is still asking supervisors to be judicious in calling for in-office work and must have a good “business reason” for such requests, he said.

DeJong also was queried about whether job reclassification was warranted when a staff person was asked to take over some or all of the duties of a colleague taking early retirement.

“What has to happen,” he said, “we’re going to need to re-look at that job classification … and it needs to go to compensation for review.”

Mark Burdsall, assistant vice chancellor for consulting services in HR who also now presents frequently at Staff Council meetings, cautioned that job description changes should only be considered if job duties were changed permanently, rather than temporarily.

Asked what is being done to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 infection rates, DeJong noted that Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner has instituted a “conduct referral” for University community members to report health or safety violations among students. Bonner is personally walking into South Oakland frequently to monitor the situation, he added, and is putting together a team of about 30 students to offer safety reminders in that area, starting toward the end of this month.

“A couple of addresses have had frequent complaints,” DeJong said, but there also have been some “spurious” complaints about those living together who have been seen gathered in groups without masks.

Burdsall reported that compliance with performance reviews is at about 90 percent, or more than 6,500, of the 7,240 staff members on the Pittsburgh campust, and that HR set a Sept. 30 deadline for full compliance with reviews. “I’m still looking for 100 percent,” he said.

The online supervisor training pilot program also has begun, he said, with a select group of supervisors testing the communications skills module on Sept. 21. On Sept. 30, about 60 supervisors — half experienced, half new — representing all 46 Pitt responsibility centers will test all three supervisor training modules: communications skills, performance management and equity, diversity and inclusion.

“We’re going to ask them to be very critical — what did we miss, what would they like to see (in such trainings)?” Burdsall said.

The next Staff Council meeting is at noon Oct. 21. Register through University calendar to get the Zoom link and password.

Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-758-4859.


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